Sunday November 10th filled me with pride. My 301 Patterns & Games class performed their showcase. And it was great.
Their energy was high. Their support, unwavering. And their commitment to building collaborative patterns using the rubrics’ guidance led to hilarious moments.
Those rubrics? The One Person Scene. To The Ether games. Help Desk games. Hey Everybody games. They’re narrowly focused on different ways for a group to build a pattern together. A group doesn’t need to be narrowly focused on them to be successful; as I hope this site makes abundantly clear, a “good” game is whatever a group builds together.
But, uh, oh man, when a group keeps it simple with a quick, clear progression, it’s easier to keep the mechanics tight and more likely the game will heighten to a satisfying punch.
Just watch. Continue reading
GUS, the delightful and talented team from The Baltimore Improv Group, opens its sets these days by asking the audience for “Three non-geographic locations.” Asked to come up and lead a practice, I brought this exercise with me. We had a lot of fun with it. You will, too.
Have you ever been in The White House? Ever gone into space? Ever visited an old West saloon? No? Well have you ever seen a television show or movie about one of those locations that you felt was “relate-able”?
The audience relates to Characters and Relationships even in “unrelatable” circumstances. As improvisers, we can go to wackier and wackier places as long as we center our scenes in knowable characters and relationships. And, remember, we know our characters and relationships through their patterns of emotional behavior.
As an improviser, have you ever been suggested a location or activity you’re not personally familiar with and as a result you end up playing a character who is “new” to the location/activity or just openly inept?
When the audience is engaged with Characters and Relationships they care way less about the authenticity of your mime and/or details. It’s the old Back To The Future Versus The Matrix dynamic: Because we were invested in Doc and Marty as people, knowing that once 85 MPH was achieved the Flux Capacitor sent you back in time was all that we needed. Conversely, because The Matrix was mostly filled with unemotional characters, nerds ruthlessly attacked the world’s nitty gritty.
Bottom line: This exercise will allow your group to more confidently explore far off worlds by finding a connection in Character and Relationships.
Make a choice the moment you enter stage. Choose to feel. Feel something about something – an imagined object, mimed activity, and/or your scene partner. Allow both you and your scene partner to be dynamic.
Here’s the final scene from a class building out that progression and its value:
And here’s the class’ outline with video of me teaching it. Continue reading
Mmmm…what do these have in common?
When asked for a desired focus for a scheduled coaching session, a Duo sent me the following:
Mainly character stuff, fleshing them out versus building out more plot. Getting better at finding and sticking to the game of the scene.
What follows is some didactic and exercises that filled two hours.
DIDACTIC: How do You think about “Game” in improv?
Acknowledged ad nauseam here on Improv As Improv Does Best, the idea of “Game” gets thrown around a lot in improv.
At its most dumbed down, “Game” is “the funny thing, done more.” Though what the “funny thing” is is subjective.
At once both more sophisticated and more corny, “Game” can focus on the repetition of the cause and effect of actions. Short Form‘s blessing and curse is that its rhythms connect so quickly (helped by being made explicit) – the audience is rigged to react to anticipation but the rigging can be too tight and become stale.
Aiming for an universal answer this site’s materials are predicated on the definition of “Game” as “a sequence of actions related by cause in effect, heightening in a progression through repetition.” Holds true for baseball and Monopoly alike.
Regardless of definition, “Game” needs Emotion. Continue reading
My latest Patterns & Games class embraced To The Ether style group games like no other class I’ve had. They had three To The Ether games in their showcase! It brings a tear to this guy’s eye.
I’m sharing 4 of them that I (obviously) recorded. They each showcase a nice lesson.
Gretchen Glaeser introduced me to Zane Adickes‘ “Damn, they call it like they see it!” warm-up tonight. And, well, I see it as a damn fine warm-up.
Looking for an activity to practice individual silo-building through an emotional perspective as well as the pacing between individual contributions and group agreement? Try “They call it like they see it!” Continue reading
A quick, fun Help Desk game utilizing the Split Screen.
The escalating pattern is fun but the commitment to emotion helps the pattern hit.
Listen for the laugh Adrienne gets just by reacting without words.
Note the key to the end is that Ben actually feels bad for his allergy to murder. The connection he makes between his allergic reaction and the dead bodies’ bloat is icing on the cake.
Players are (in order of appearance): Adrienne Thompson, Paul Costen, Becky Coppa, Jonathan Mostowy, Brittany Andersen, and Ben Hay
Personal Games are the focus of the base Mirror, Action, Object warm-up exercise. Engaged in either how they feel about themselves, how they feel about what they’re doing, or how they feel about a mimed object, players build progressions of emotional reaction triggered by active endowments. As examples: A player loves his outfit, and as he scans himself toe to head he grows more and more impressed with himself (Mirror). A player grows more insane with every monotonous saw stroke. A player becomes more and more vain with every bite of the apple.
This add-on expands the warm-up to practice Scenic Games as well. Continue reading
Aaron Grant once took the stage across from me, making eye contact but planting his feet firmly just beyond the stage right wing. I mirrored him on stage left. He mimed the classic flirtatious fishing move. I played his fish but broke his line bashfully, the stage’s distance remaining between us. I danced as someone with a club; he played my seal. He loaded his heart into a gun and shot it at me. I loaded my heart into a mortar and launched it at him. He shot me with a bazooka of love. I put love in a centrifuge and then in a bomb that erupted in a mushroom cloud of hearts. He built and climbed into a B-52 bomber than rained love upon me. We both stood up from the rubble and traced out hearts to one another. Never a word was spoken.
How does one teach Silent Games? Read on! Continue reading
“I love opium.”
It’s a fine line between a character evoking a plot and a character reacting to their reality. A very fine line. But I believe that attention to that line can mean the difference between a scene where improvisers force a sequence of events dependent on an audience’s satisfaction with a resolution and a scene where characters are engaged in the moment of their reality with an audience reacting to – and investing in – a character’s consistency regardless of “sense.”
The following is a series of exercises geared toward prioritizing characters in-the-moment over improvisers setting-up-situations-to-be-negotiated. Continue reading